We went to Hawaii for the very first time last November, and I have to admit, it wasn’t somewhere that was ever on my bucket list, but once we went, I was hooked. The opportunities for outdoors adventure are endless, and once you figure out how to cover the plane tickets and lodging, a trip to Hawaii can cost very little because there are so many wonderful free things to do once you’re there.

That being said, once we had planned that first trip last year, my grandmother let it slip that Hawaii was a place she’d always wanted to go since she was a little girl. I’m not sure how no one in our entire family had never know this, but once I found that out, I was determined to take her there. However, paying for a family to fly to Hawaii with cash costs quite a bit of money, and not something that fits into our goal of a 50% savings rate for the year.

However, we had already used the bulk of our Alaska Airlines credit card miles on previous trips, so I had to get creative with other points to come up with the credit card miles for this trip, especially because we wanted to bring my mother in law as well. We may be an immediate family of three, but vacations are eminently more enjoyable with extra adult hands along (and then we get a date night out just the two of us in awesome places). And so like our most recent plane trip to the East Coast, I was looking at covering five plane tickets instead of just three.

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Last time at the airport with the little man

So after years of redeeming flights through our regular credit card spending (including some reimbursed work charges which upped the total points we’d earned in the past), I realized it was time to start down the rabbit hole of credit card travel hacking in order to continue our ability to pay just the cost of taxes and fees on plane flights.

I’d read up on the sweet spot with credit card rewards points for trips from the west coast to Hawaii, and I was ready to try it out. I had opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred* for both myself and my husband over the last number of months..

The card has a sign up bonus of 50,000 points after a $4,000 minimum spend in three months, so it has taken us a little while since we opened them one at a time and then put all of our regular spending on them until we hit the minimum. Eventually, we racked up a significant number of Chase Ultimate Rewards points and I was ready to plan a trip.

*As always, I will ONLY recommend opening up new credit cards – and using them in general – if you are sure to pay them off IN FULL every single month. At the point you start paying interest, it negates the cost savings of the card rewards and you’re better off sticking to cash and saving up for vacations that way.

The Chase – Avios Hack To Fly To Hawaii

So, I had heard about this magical credit card redemption for flights to Hawaii from the West Coast, but I had actually never redeemed any sort of credit card rewards for flights beyond our standard Alaska Airlines card, which is extremely simple: look up flights via miles on the Alaska Airlines portal, confirm number of points required for the flights you want, click book flights, the end. Anything beyond that felt a bit overwhelming to begin with, but I’d heard enough to know that it was absolutely worth it once I could figure it out.

Perhaps you’re a seasoned credit card travel hacker, in that case, this might not be a super helpful post for you, but if you’re more like me and just dipping your toe into the travel hacking waters, hopefully I can help by breaking it down in a way that’s really easy and makes sense. I tried to find this written out clearly already, but every post I found used the example of American Airlines – not Alaska Airlines, which is what I wanted to use – so I felt I was mostly guessing until I had actually booked the tickets.

Hilo, Hawaii

Step 1: Accumulate 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per round trip ticket you want to book

For me, that meant 125,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points because I was looking to book five round trip tickets from Seattle to Hawaii. To accumulate these points, as mentioned above I opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, which has a sign up bonus of 50,000 points once you spend $5,000 in three months (which means you actually end up with a minimum of 54,000 points once you’ve hit that minimum spend because you get credit at one point per dollar as well, or two or three points for specific categories).

Once we hit the minimum spend on my card and earned those first 54,000 points, I sent a referral link to my husband to open up his own card, which netted me another 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points to my account, which was then at 64,000 points. A key point here is that I did not just add my husband as an authorized user onto my account, because that doesn’t earn nearly the same number of sign up bonus points, though we did use the card for all purchases during that time period to make sure we got that minimum spend threshold.

We then earned the sign up bonus on my husband’s card, which earned us another 54,000 Ultimate Rewards points (50,000 sign up + 4,000 in regular spending). Total points combined at this point was slightly more than 120,000, which was just shy of the 125,000 needed to book the five round trip tickets to Hawaii for us.

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park

A friend ended up signing up for her own card through my referral link (and a few blog readers have as well, so thank you very much!), but even if not, we could have simply continued to use our cards for just a little bit longer to come up with the difference. Now the easiest part was done, coming up with the 125,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Step 2: Create a British Airways Avios Account

Learn from me and create a British Airways Executive Club account first before you start looking for flights as it doesn’t require any points transfer to sign up and then you are ready to go start once you find your preferred flight itineraries. Set up takes about five minutes and is just creating an account for their awards program, but they cannot help you book flights over the phone until you have an account number to give them.

Step 3: Go on to Alaska Airlines and search for the flights you want

The flights must be for “saver” level tickets, which means either 15,000 and 17,500 miles each way and be direct flights. Beyond that, you can take your pick of which island to fly to and which west coast city you fly out of. For us, that meant flying out of Seattle, but I was open to which island we would visit and what week specifically.

Especially since I was looking for five tickets, flexibility was key. If you have fewer people in your party, you’ll probably have even more options than we did. Also, the sooner you pick your flights the better, as they do tend to fill up. Our last trip was during their off season (November), but this trip is in January/February, so right during the busy time of year, which meant we needed to plan farther in advance.

If you are a bit flexible on which island you want to visit, or if you can leave and return mid week, you should have a number of options to choose from. My suggestion would be to find at least two different itineraries you’re willing to book in case one is no longer available by the time you call to reserve them. I’m so glad I did this because one itinerary only had four seats left when I called, so it no longer worked for us.

Flights per Alaska Airlines

Step 4: Transfer Your Ultimate Rewards Points To Avios

Once you know that there is an itinerary that works for you, hop onto the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and transfer the points you need to British Airways. If you haven’t done this before, log into your account at Chase.com, click on Ultimate Rewards, and then “Transfer to Partners.”

Click British Airways, fill in your British Airways Executive Club name and number, and transfer points. (Make sure you are ABSOLUTELY ready to use the points, because they can’t be be transferred back to Chase once you’ve moved them).

Step 5: Call British Airways and book the flights over the phone

Once you have your flights picked out and points transferred to British Airways Avios points, call British Airways at 800-452-1201 and let them know that you want to book a flight on Alaska Airlines. You will need to have the names and birth dates of all people flying, so have those ready.

They will ask you for the dates you want to fly, and then they will confirm the number of points it will take to make the trip (just 25,000!) and then they will book your flights and send a confirmation to your email just like any other plane ticket purchase.

I read online while initially doing this research that they charge a fee to book flights over the phone, but I wasn’t charged one. If they do for whatever reason quote you a ticket booking fee, let them know that you don’t have a choice to book Alaska Airlines flights any other way, and they *should* waive it. I have to say that I was quite impressed with the level of service I received through their online booking agents, which is always very much appreciated.

We have our tickets! Via British Airways

Step 6: Find Your Tickets In Your Email Inbox And Start Planning Your Trip!

You’re done! At this point, I was feeling like a total travel hacking rockstar for pulling off the steps required to book the flights. While maybe not the most complicated thing ever, it was definitely more involved than what other sites made it out to be. That said, the miles needed for this trip was only 25,000 points per person – AND direct flights – which is well less than the points that it took to fly us to Hawaii the last time. Better yet, we get to fly on Alaska Airlines, which is hands down my favorite airline to travel on, but they don’t have any ways to rack up a ton of miles beyond their one sign up bonus for their card and then regular spending. By being able to use Chase points created from new credit card sign ups, suddenly more Alaska Airlines trips are open to us in the future, which is amazing.

Waipi’o Valley sundown

And there you have it. The full run down, beginner’s guide to how to use Chase Sapphire Preferred sign up bonuses to cover flights to Hawaii. And if you happen to head to the Big Island like us, here are my top ten free things to do there and general budget Hawaii tips to keep the total cost of the trip to a minimum. Once you arrive in Hawaii, the vacation doesn’t have to cost a ton, and now here’s a way to take away the big price tag of getting there in the future.

Have you used Chase points for great redemptions before? Where should we look for our next trip?

58 thoughts on “How To Fly To Hawaii For Free (Plus $11.20 in taxes and fees)

    1. The itinerary that ended up having only 4 tickets left by the time I called was Kauai 🙁 Oh well, next time! And I’m thinking it makes more sense to return to an island we’ve already been to this trip since we’ll have my grandmother with us.

  1. Travel Hacker Level: EXPERT!!!

    Wow! What a great deal! I don’t usually have the patience to research travel deals like this. So it’s nice when someone like you is willing to share all thst you’ve learned in one succinct article. Thanks, Angela! I hope your grandma enjoys her dream trip!

    1. It sure felt like it!! And I did a TON of reading before I booked the tickets but still didn’t feel like I had a full grasp on it before I called the airline, so wanted to make it really really easy for anyone to replicate 🙂

  2. That is one thing we don’t have in Canada anywhere near what you do south of the border. Our travel credit card rewards are basically limited and have nothing even close to your options. Nice work on the reward collection and steps completed to create a wonderful family trip. Were you able to pull off any hacks for accommodations?

    1. That’s what I’ve heard from others unfortunately. Makes it a lot harder to do really cheap vacations (other than camping of course). I recently signed up for the new Marriott card so I think we’ll be staying in a hotel on points for a few nights and then in an Airbnb the rest of the time since we really prefer to stay somewhere with a kitchen and laundry.

  3. Man, I wish Hawaii was easier to get to from the East Coast. It’s basically like going to Asia from here! There are definitely great Hawaii deals from the West Coast, and I’d probably go too many times if I lived where you do. I also wanted to do Kauai, but couldn’t find availability for four people, so we did Maui instead. We all loved it, but next time, I’m definitely gunning for Kauai!

    And I 100% agree that you don’t need to spend much once you’re there, because so many wonderful activities are free (beaches, hiking, driving around). We didn’t do luaus or anything when we went, either, and no one was mad.

    1. To be fair, you can get to Europe way easier than we can, so it’s a trade off for sure 😉 And we will actually probably do a luau this time because it’s something my grandma wants to do, I’ll be doing some serious research so we don’t over pay for it.

  4. This is an awesome hack. You scored such an amazing deal! I haven’t looked into Hawaii as a destination yet. But since we have a little one, it’s looking more and more like an appealing destination!

    I have heard of the Chase -> BA Avios -> Alaska trick, but I’ve never seen a simple, yet complete guide to implementing it until I’ve read your post. I’m going to bookmark this one! Thanks 🙂

    1. Thank you!! That’s exactly why I decided to write it out. I spent way too much time trying to find it laid out and all the posts I found went through the process with American Airlines.

  5. Dr McFrugal said it best. This is a great resource post. In fact my next trip to Hawaii will be following your method. Thanks for the very informative, step-by-step guide. Now I just need to get busy opening up a couple Chase cards.

    1. Thank you! I definitely opened the cards before we had a definite plan, and I’m glad I did so they were available as soon as we wanted to plan a trip.

  6. i’m glad you reminded me about the referral. i want mrs. smidlap to get a new chase cash back card and didn’t leave the referral on the table! i sent it before i finished reading. chase has been great since i started with them about 10 years ago. also, we used to have hsbc bank which is british and they were so efficient and knowledgeable as opposed to more american customer service. that’s really awesome to pull that off with points and thoughtful. but that’s how you roll i’ve noticed.

    1. Interesting. This was my first experience with British customer service, but perhaps that’s more typical?

  7. Great job Angela! Hawaii is more points from here on the East coast but good to see your strategy. Interesting how you went through British Airways to do it. There service is famous for being top-notch

    1. Yeah, it’s interesting to me how much nuance there is for travel hacking based even on where you are within the United States. I was definitely more than pleased with their customer service.

  8. Maybe I would give travel hacking a second chance if I was in the US.
    Nothing that exciting in Canada:(
    Congrats on doing such a great job:)

    1. Yeah, what a bummer that you guys don’t have the options we do 🙁

  9. Thanks for sharing this travel hacking info Angela! I’ve never been to Hawaii before but living on the west coast, I should have gone there a few times based on how short of a flight time it is to get there compared to the rest of the US. But I never had the urge to go there for some reason. But with a family now and all these ways to hack for cheap flight prices, it sure is tempting to go there soon.

    1. Do it!! For whatever reason, it was never on my bucket list before we randomly went last year, but now I’m in love.

    1. I was pretty darn happy with myself for making it happen haha. And can’t replace the trips with family 🙂

  10. Whoa that is some seriously impressive hacking! The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is so awesome. We hit the signup bonus when we were planning our wedding a few years ago and now we’re earning mega points using it to buy things for the house we’re building. We’re hoping to fly free (or very cheap) to Europe next summer.

  11. Interesting, I just finished my CSP minimum spend and it was only $4,000 over the first 3 months. They must’ve changed it! Very jealous I did not take advantage of being on the west coast to make a trip out to Hawaii. I’ll make it there someday!

    1. Oh interesting! I just looked and yeah, it does say $4,000 now. Wondering if I should update the post 🤔

      1. That’s a good idea. Then I don’t have to totally redo that section 😉

  12. Thanks for the details. I am new to travel hacking and have just started with the Chase Sapphire Preferred. As of today, I have paid off the amount to get the 50,000 bonus points and I will take your advice to refer my husband. We are in Northern CA so Hawaii is a possible choice for us. We don’t necessarily care about it being booked on a particular airline, so is American a more standard choice? Just wondering.

    1. I’m not sure, but when I looked at flights on American I didn’t have the same choices as Alaska. But then again, I also way prefer flying Alaska, so that was my first choice anyway.

  13. Travel is never sweeter than when you do it for free lol. I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii and i always assumed it would be so costly…. that was before i found out about travel hacking!

    $11.20 / person though? That is super impressive. And you and your son are cool! 😉

    1. Haha yeah, travel is way better when it’s free or close to it 😉 And that price is a west coast specific extra deal, depending on where you live.

    1. Awesome! You’re definitely a more experienced travel hacker than me so far 🙂 And my husband doesn’t want to stay in a hotel the whole time (and neither do I), so it’s harder to cover all our lodging costs that way.

  14. That’s so amazing! My parents have been going to Hawaii for part of the winter every year since they recited and I’ve been a couple of times, it’s such a beautiful place. And I’m sure travel hacking your way there makes it that much better!

    I need to up my travel hacking game. I think it’s slightly more challenging in Canada because we have less options for credit cards but I know people still do it. Definitely on my list of skills to master.

    1. I just shared a post from Tawcan earlier today who did a travel hacked trip from Vancouver! Not as easy, but definitely possible!!

    1. Awesome!! The west coast might be a pain to get to Europe, but we do have a pretty sweet deal when it comes to Hawaii!

  15. Thanks for breaking it down and explaining everything. I have always used cash back credit cards because the travel rewards and points has always seemed confusing. The cash rewards are so straightforward. It looks like it’s worth the time to figure out how to get the most out of the travel rewards.

    1. Cash rewards are definitely straightforward as are the gift card type rewards (what our first credit card had), but the big money savers really are the travel cards.

  16. Thanks for this write-up! My husband and I are planning our five year anniversary trip to Hawaii and he came across your article. It’s the best explanation we’ve read so far. We went ahead and signed up for the card using your referral link!

    1. Well thank you!! Glad it was helpful 🙂 Everyone online makes travel hacking seem so easy, but I found it more confusing than that.

  17. Is there a reason to go through British airways and use points with Alaska Airlines vs using Chase Sapphire rewards points with United?
    Also why the phone call to British Airways vs booking online?

    I am planning a trip in October and this seems like the best option, but am a bit confused as to the necessity of the roundabout process.

    Great post overall, though! Thank you so much for compiling it and doing screenshots.

    1. If you’re on the west coast it’s basically the fewest number of points needed to do the trip, and you get direct flights. Plus Alaska is my preferred airline anyway, so I’m all for any ways to get more trips with them.

      On the phone because there is no way to book this online. Definitely roundabout but worthwhile. It took a bit for me to figure it out with Alaska (there are posts online for American), so I figured I’d share it clearly here so others would have an easier time of it in the future 🙂

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